The Smuts House Museum seeks to represent faithfully the life-style and multi-facetted career of one of South Africa's greatest sons, General J. C. Smuts, and to promote the holistic vision which he expounded in his life and writings.
General Smuts bought, for £300, the wood-and-iron building that had served as the officers' mess. It is believed that the building was originally prefabricated in Britain, taken to India by the British Army and later shipped to South Africa. Now, once again the building was dismantled. It was brought to Pretoria by rail, and thence to the farm Doornkloof by ox wagon, where it was re-erected at the substantial cost of £1000 in 1909. General Smuts was at sea, on the way to England as a member of the National Convention delegation, when Mrs Smuts moved her family into the house on 10 July 1909. The plan was altered on rebuilding, and as the years passed a kitchen and pantry (1918) and other rooms were added, and verandahs were enclosed (front verandah, 1942). The Big House is, however, substantially as it was a century ago. The unpretentious building strikingly illustrates Smuts's indifference to luxury and ease of living, and here he spent the happiest hours of his life. Among the famous guests whom Ouma, Smuts' mother, entertained in her home were the British Royal Family, who visited the Prime Minister and his wife at Doornkloof while on the Royal Tour in 1947. General Smuts found his peace at Doornkloof. It was to Doornkloof that he retreated from the affairs of State which occupied so much of his life. At Doornkloof Smuts could indulge his absorbing passions for botany and philosophy. At Doornkloof he could enjoy the simple life of a farmer, father and grandfather. After his death in 1950, Mrs Smuts continued to live in the only real home she had ever known, until her death in 1954. Both General and Mrs Smuts died in the Big House. Their ashes were scattered, as were other members of the Smuts family, on the top of Smuts Koppie - the rugged hill behind the house.
General Smuts is widely known for being an avid lover of both Philosophy and Botany. Smuts grew up on the Smuts family farm, Bovenplaats, in the Cape Colony. He would often go out alone and explore the countryside. Throughout his lifetime he went on many botanical expeditions all across South Africa, where he would collect plants. Smuts was also a mountaineer and one of his favourite treks was up Table Mountain. This route is now named Smut's Track in commemoration of the General. His love for botany can be seen in the stunning wild gardens on the Smuts' property. Some of the trees on the stand have very special history to them, such as the Magnolia tree planted by General Smuts from seeds he recieved from his long-time esteemed penpal Emily Hobhouse. The London planetrees on the property also have historical value as they were planted there by MOTH (Memorable Order of the Tin Hats) Shellholes.
Come join us for refreshments and lunch (perharps some tea and scones or one of Ouma's favourite dishes!) at Ouma's Tea Garden, located in the lush gardens of the Smuts House Museum.
This quaint Tea Garden is the perfect place to unwind and forget about the stressors of daily life, celebrate a wedding or an anniversary, or to host a reception.
Experience the peace of Doornkloof while sitting in the Place of Quiet, built in memory of Guy Brathwaite, an ex-serviceman who saved the Big House from being turned into a sanatorium, founder of what is now the General Smuts Foundation.
The Place of Quiet can also be used as a chapel for weddings. Please contact us to make bookings.
The Arboretum, (near the Place of Quiet), is a project of the Friends of the General Smuts Foundation. A variety of indigenous trees and shrubs are being planted to attract birds and butterflies to the area.
When Smuts moved to Doornkloof he planted exotic trees such as blue gums and pine trees to assist the mines, and augment his income. The Australian wattles were planted by Ouma Smuts, who liked the yellow flowers.
Today these exotic trees, which are classified as invasive plants are slowly being removed and replaced with indigenous trees. The natural grasslands have recovered over time and the wild flower display in Spring is worth the walk.
The Oubaas Trail is a 2.3km walk that was designed and laid out by members of the Friends of the General Smuts Foundation. The trail winds through one of the few remaining pristine dolomitic grasslands in Gauteng.
The trail ends at the top of Smuts Koppie where there is an obelisk in memory of the Smuts family.
Familes, nature lovers, hikers and botanists can enjoy the interesting biodiversity of plants to be found on the Smuts Koppie. Many small critters live on the property and one can often spot a hare or a small antelope roaming around.
Smuts Koppie is the home of a critically endangered fruit chafer beetle, Ichnestoma stobbiai. The female of this fragile species is flightless. This beetle also has a very short adulthood - the males are only active for a few days during the year after the spring rains - this is the only time when mating occurs. They have a beautiful coppery coloured exterior and are about 1cm in length.
• Guided educational tours of the Smuts House Museum and Smuts Koppie by arrangement
• Koppie hiking trail
• Picnic venue
• Dog walking off-lead
• Venue for weddings
• Venue for conferences, functions and launches
• Smuts Farm Caravan Park
Mrs Kitty Smuts, Smuts' daughter, widow of Japie Smuts, inherited the Big House. Finding it difficult to maintain the old house, she offered it to various organisation, but they declined her offers. The Smuts family removed items of furniture and objects of sentimental value from the Big House while items of significant historical interest were donated to institutions best able and willing to preserve them.
In July 1960, a contract was concluded whereby the Big House and 25 morgen (21 hectares or 53 acres) of surrounding land were sold for £7000 by Mrs Kitty Smuts to Mr Brathwaite, an ex-serviceman and Pretoria attorney. Mr Brathwaite personally paid the 10% deposit on the same day. He announced proudly that "Doornkloof had been secured for the nation as a permanent memorial to the Oubaas and Ouma and all the ideals which we cherished and for which we fought during the war years".
A congress of ex-servicemen and servicewomen's organizations was held at Doornkloof on 8 October 1960, at which it was decided that a Section 21 company (i.e. a non-profit company), to be known as the General Smuts War Veterans' Foundation, should be registered "to hold Doornkloof in perpetuity".
The culmination of these early efforts was the declaration, in 1969, of the Big House as a National Monument by notice in the Government Gazette, No. 2551 of 31 October 1969.
In 1994 the name of the General Smuts War Veterans' Foundation was changed to The General Smuts Foundation.
The General Smuts Foundation still owns and administers Doornkloof. The tea garden, caravan park and Village Arts and Crafts Market generate some of the funds necessary for the day-to-day administration of the museum.
The administration of the Smuts House Museum is an interesting model for cultural preservation in South Africa today. Government does not have the resources to preserve the cultural heritage of all interest groups, and the onus for the identification and preservation of specific sites and aspects of history will have to rest on those with a particular interest in their preservation.
Donations in cash and/or Smuts memorabilia will be most gratefully accepted.
The Friends of the General Smuts Foundation is a voluntary organisation dedicated to supporting the Museum in practical ways and fundraising and in promoting the vision of the General Smuts Foundation. It is an Incorporated Association not for Gain and is affiliated to the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa. Its members are deeply involved in arranging regular cultural activities at the Museum and in developing the grounds. We fundraise by having events such as guided bird walks, guided nature walks and monthly supper talks on various subjects relevant to Smuts and the environment.
• Preservation of the General Smuts House Museum
• Maintenance and preservation of the natural environment of Smuts Koppie, Oubaas Trail and Arboretum
• Promotion of historical and environmental education
• Student/Pensioners: R100,00
• Pensioner Family: R150,00
• Single: R150,00
• Family: R200,00
• Institutions/Clubs - on request
• Free Museum entrance for Friends with membership card
• Reduced charges for social events, talks, walks and lectures
• Most of all – the knowledge that you will be involved in the preservation, for posterity, of an important part of our national, historical and natural heritage.